Novel coronavirus information

August 31, 2021

Autumn quarter health and safety measures (Message to UW personnel)

This message was sent to faculty and other academic personnel, staff, and student employees across the University of Washington, with the exception of personnel at UW Medicine clinical locations.

Dear UW community members,

As we approach the last days of summer, we expect that like us you are busily preparing, with both anticipation and anxiety, for the start of the academic year. There is already more activity in and around our campuses and we are well on our way toward the return of in-person classes, meetings and activities that add so much to the vibrancy of our work and to building our community. While unpredictability continues to be COVID-19’s calling card, and the Delta variant is driving a new wave of infections posing health risks, especially to those who are unvaccinated, the wonderful work of scientists and health-care workers, many in our own community, has prepared us with good information and provided us with tools to greatly minimize those risks.

Vaccination and masking mandates are now in place, as are testing requirements and protocols and ventilation enhancements. We remain very encouraged by the numbers of UW community members who report being fully vaccinated, with vaccination rates well above 90% for students and personnel who have completed their UW vaccination attestation. Of the coronavirus tests completed by members of our community over the last couple of weeks, the seven-day average positivity rate has hovered around 1%. We are also heartened by encouraging reports we are receiving from our West Coast peers who have started their in-person fall semesters, and we will continue to stay in close touch with them as the next few weeks and months unfold.

We are writing now to share more specific details on the health measures that will be in place for the start of the academic year. These are based on state requirements, recommendations from UW health experts, guidance from our Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases, and consultations with many faculty experts and Faculty Senate leadership. Below you will find information about:

The contents of this messages are also posted on, which remains your best source for extensive, updated information on the UW’s policies and plans, as well as details on where to get vaccinated and current case counts in the UW community. Additionally, there are UW Medicine policies specific to its facilities and operations.

As has been the case since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health and well-being of each of you and our community as a whole is our priority. We will adapt our protocols and approaches as needed to respond to changes in the course of the pandemic and apply an equity lens to our decision-making. Flexibility continues to be key as we adjust and adapt to changing circumstances, both on our campuses and in our surrounding communities. As we return to our campus communities, we should all remember to extend grace and kindness to each other. We are only now beginning to fully understand the mental toll of isolation, also a serious health risk of this pandemic that is too often unacknowledged. All of us have experienced some level of loss, stress and strain, and those impacts have been more significant for some than for others. You will often not know the level of stress or anxiety that your classmate or colleagues may be experiencing.

Keep in mind that we all have different comfort levels with risk, and while some may look forward to a handshake or embrace after a long time apart, others will prefer an elbow bump or simple nod of the head or wave. Err on the side of caution. Take advantage of opportunities and commit to habits that keep each other well — physically and mentally. We must each act in ways that recognize how our individual actions, health and well-being are inextricably connected to the health and well-being of our entire community. It is our collective commitment to health protocols and to building and sustaining a diverse and equitable community that will go a long way toward making this academic year a success.

We will continue to update our community as the pandemic — and our response — evolves.

With best wishes to all,

Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology

Mark A. Richards
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Earth and Space Sciences


The content below was included in the message sent on Aug. 31, 2021. For the most up-do-date information on the health measures in place during autumn quarter, please visit the Autumn quarter health and safety page.

Protocols, policies and mandates in place for autumn quarter 2021

Vaccinations required for all students and personnel

All students and personnel are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to confirm that they are fully vaccinated before returning to in-person courses or work. The only exemptions are for documented medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs — “philosophical” exemptions are no longer accepted.

The most important information and updates are summarized below, with additional details and follow-up instructions to come. Please read these requirements carefully, even if you have already turned in an attestation. In keeping with new vaccination requirements from the state, our policies for students and all personnel have been updated.

Students: Students are required to attest to their vaccination status prior to the start of autumn quarter on Sept. 29. In addition to this attestation, the University will be verifying students’ vaccination status through the state’s vaccination database and/or through requests for additional documentation.

Students requesting medical or religious exemptions will also be required to provide additional information regarding their exemption before final approval. More details on the student vaccination verification process will be posted as they are finalized, and students who need to submit additional information — either to prove vaccination status or to document a medical or religious exemption — will be contacted. Students who submit false or inaccurate information on their attestations or submit false or inaccurate information during the verification process are subject to disciplinary procedures that can include dismissal from the University.

Personnel, including student employees: Gov. Inslee’s proclamation makes several changes to his previous vaccination requirements for higher education personnel, including student employees. New requirements include the removal of the philosophical exemption, additional vaccination verification, additional documentation for medical and religious exemptions, and vaccination being a condition of employment as of Oct. 18. If an employee is not fully vaccinated or has not been granted a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 18, the Governor’s order requires they be separated from UW employment. We are working to ensure compliance with the new order consistent with relevant provisions of the Faculty Code, labor contracts and other employment policies.

All personnel are still required to attest to their vaccination status by Sept. 10. More details on the vaccination verification process will be communicated as it is finalized, and personnel who need to submit additional information — either to prove vaccination status or to document a medical or religious exemption — will be contacted.

If you have not been vaccinated, please do so immediately. Achieving full vaccination status by the Oct. 18 deadline for employees requires starting a two-dose vaccine regimen no later than early September.

Masks required inside all UW buildings and facilities

On August 14, the University reinstated an indoor mask mandate for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, which was followed by a state mandate on August 23. A mask or other suitable face covering is required indoors when other people are present and in all public and common areas, such as lobbies, hallways, stairways, restrooms, elevators and shared vehicles. They are also strongly recommended in crowded outdoor settings. Masks that allow the lips to be visible in order to increase accessibility are available for units to purchase from the UW Creative Communications Safe and Clean Storefront.

The UW’s indoor mask mandate will be in place until health experts advise it is safe to roll back and only after the state removes its indoor mask mandate.

While past experience and the experiences of West Coast public universities that have already started classes lead us to expect that the vast majority of our community will happily follow this masking requirement to care for themselves and others, there may be cases where people are out of compliance. EH&S has guidance and resources for effective enforcement on the Face Covering Requirements page. Students who do not comply are subject to discipline under the Student Conduct Code through each campus’ disciplinary processes, while personnel are subject to the disciplinary processes governing their specific position.

Testing options, and testing requirement for unvaccinated students

Husky Coronavirus Testing will continue to operate an in-person testing site at the UW Club and make self-test kits available to individuals at all campuses. This service is free to all students and personnel. Please enroll in this program if you haven’t already.

When they received the Back-to-School Checklist, all students were instructed to get tested upon arrival to their on- or near-campus residences. A self-test kit will be waiting for each on-campus housing resident at move-in, and self-test kits will also be distributed to Greek housing residents during the return to campus.

Additionally, students who receive a medical or religious exemption from the UW’s vaccination mandate will be required to obtain a COVID-19 test weekly and submit their results to the University. These tests can be obtained via Husky Coronavirus Testing or obtained from other providers that use FDA-authorized tests. Details will be shared with these students in the near future regarding how to submit their test results. This policy will be in effect until further notice, and students who do not comply will be subject to disciplinary action under the Student Conduct Code.

Ventilation enhancements in buildings and classrooms

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UW Facilities has worked closely with EH&S to adjust building ventilation systems as public health guidelines have evolved. Extra checks of ventilation systems and equipment were initiated, operating hours for mechanical ventilation systems extended, and outside air ventilation rates increased to the extent possible. Facilities staff also began conducting special out-of-cycle checks on central supply air fan filters and mechanical components such as fans, dampers and cooling/heating coils.

In preparation for greater numbers of students and personnel returning to in-person learning and working this September, and with the state having lifted applicable distancing restrictions, additional classroom airflow tests are being conducted and the University is purchasing over 1,000 air purifiers to install as needed in classrooms on the Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma campuses.

EH&S has published details on ventilation standards, and clinical and laboratory spaces operate under the ventilation standards specific to the needs of those environments. UW Facilities has produced an overview of the measures undertaken to improve ventilation in campus buildings. Both of these are also linked from

Returning to in-person learning and working, and accommodations for students and personnel

The return to in-person learning in autumn quarter also means the return to in-person work for most employees who were not already working on site. The guidance for staff returning to in-person work after Sept. 10 remains in effect and gives unit leaders and supervisors the flexibility to work with their employees on working arrangements that enable us to prepare for autumn quarter, while also accounting for individual circumstances.

We recognize that some students and personnel have documented medical conditions that place them at higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Requests for accommodations related to COVID-19 will be handled in the same manner as for other medical conditions. Students should request accommodations from Disability Resources for Students at the Bothell, Seattle or Tacoma campuses. Faculty, academic personnel and staff should request accommodations through the Disability Services Office.

Instructors with other extenuating circumstances not involving a disability accommodation that require special arrangements for altered teaching schedules, or to teach a course remotely, must have their request first approved by a dean or chancellor. These requests will all be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In general, faculty granted such accommodations are expected to be staying at home and not engaging in other outside activities unrelated to their own health care or that of dependents. Staff working arrangements are approved by supervisors under the guidance for returning to in-person work. As was the case in the winter and spring 2021 quarters, the Provost’s Office has created a fund that can be used to support approved disability accommodations or arrangements due to extenuating circumstances at the request of deans or chancellors.

Instructors are not expected to create two versions (in-person and remote) of a course or to handle requests for accommodations that typically go through Disability Resources for Students. Of course, as in years past, students will at times need to miss class due to illness or other special situations, and we would ask that instructors work with students in those circumstances, as they did pre-pandemic. The same pre-pandemic practices for when instructors must miss class also apply.

Proof of vaccination for events

The UW has updated its events guidance to allow units to require proof of vaccination status or a negative test result for attendees at most events. Because events and event spaces vary so widely on campuses such as ours, the decision to require proof of vaccination is best made at the local level. But we highly encourage all units to take advantage of this provision so that our community can more safely engage in the types of activities that create additional learning experiences and build community.

If you are interested in requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for your event, you are required to follow University guidelines to ensure compliance with applicable non-discrimination and privacy laws and policies. Please review them carefully.

COVID-19 prevention measures at intercollegiate athletics events are governed by state and local regulations for large spectator events, and we expect updates to those regulations in the near future.

How we respond to COVID-19 cases

Over the past year and a half, EH&S created and refined its COVID-19 response, including its case notification and contact tracing operations in coordination with CDC guidelines, state and local public health officials, and the School of Public Health.

When there is a positive case, contact tracers work to identify and notify those who may have been exposed, and work with the manager(s) and/or instructor(s) in any spaces that the person may have been in while infectious. Guidance and a sample notification are provided, and the EH&S team works diligently to respond to the unique circumstances of each case. You can read more about how contact tracing works at the UW.

Please also activate and use the WA Notify app, which notifies you of potential exposures and allows you to anonymously do the same for others should you test positive. Doing so will also greatly support and improve EH&S contact tracing efforts.

What would cause us to change course

In March 2020, the UW was the first university in the country to move to remote courses. We are now one of the last to return to largely in-person instruction. Those decisions, along with the many others made along the way, have been guided by some of the world’s top health experts and made with health and well-being as our priorities.

We have also considered what would prompt a major change in course, such as a return to largely remote working and/or learning. No single metric can accurately capture a complex public health situation. We will continue to engage in science- and evidence-based decision making, relying on the expertise of our UW, local and state experts to guide us. Several scenarios could lead to a return to largely remote operations, including a major uptick in on-campus transmissions or positivity rates; greatly diminished capacity in our area hospitals; major disruptions in our K-12 schools or transportation systems; or the imposition of state or local restrictions, such as distancing requirements or “stay at home” orders. At this time, none of those scenarios is occurring. We will continue to monitor public health conditions and respond accordingly.